December 14, 2010

9 Manuscript Rules to Live By

I like this list of rules, compliments of editor Anica Mrose Rissi at They are simple, direct, and I believe I am following them fairly close. Except for #7.  I tend to read mine silently and imagine I'm listening to books on's amazing how effective that is.

1. Revise, revise, revise! I don’t want to read your first draft, ever. (Tip: Your novel isn’t ready to send to me until you can describe it in one sentence.)
2. Start with conflict and tension to raise questions, arouse curiosity and (like musical dissonance) create the need for resolution.
3. Start with the story you’re telling, not with the backstory. Throw the reader directly into a conflict and let her get to know your characters through their actions. (Yes, this is another way of saying, “Show, don’t tell.”)
4. Give the reader something to wonder about and a sense of where the story is going—of what’s at stake.
5. Avoid explaining too much too soon. And, don’t be obvious. Trust your readers. Trust your characters. Trust your writing. If you find that chunks of your story need to include long explanations, go back in and write those chunks better, until the story explains itself.
6. Make sure your story has both a plot arc and an emotional arc. Cross internal conflict with external conflict. Give your characters moral dilemmas, and force them to deal with the consequences of their choices.
7. Read your dialogue out loud. When revising, ask yourself, “What is the point of this dialogue?” (Just as you should be asking, “What is the point of this sentence? What is the point of this scene?”)
8. Use adjectives, adverbs and dialogue tags only sparingly. (See “trust your readers,” above.)
9. Make sure your details matter.

December 7, 2010

Query Therapy - Couch #4 Available

These days I do feel query therapy is helping. My anxiety, though not completely gone, is waning and I've come up with the opening hook to my query letter. Largely in thanks to Dawn Whitmire's post on Suite 101. After reading her advice, I cranked out the hook to my ms in about two minutes. And the bulk of it stays, with only a word here and there tweaked. I love it when ideas snap into place so fast, so be sure to check out this site if you find yourself stressing on the's brilliant!

December 6, 2010

Query Therapy - Couch #3 Available

If stressing over writing an effective query letter capable of promoting your manuscript out of the slush pile hasn't landed you on a therapy couch, submitting a query to the Query Shark just might.

When I first started reading Janet Reid's Query Shark blog, I was shocked at the bluntness of her comments to unknowing submitters. On one occasion found myself curled up on the couch in the fetal position while reading comments by her faithful followers. Imagine how the poor query author must have felt!

Well, after reading more of the Shark's blog I noticed a pattern. There's a darned good reason why she is so blunt and her followers harsh:  The querys submitted and posted, for the most part, were dead awful. Yes, I said it, just dreadful. Now, I'm not one to criticize someone else's work, for all I know mine isn't much better, but there is absolutely no reason to submit a query without at least knowing proper form and etiquette. It's not rocket science, people. Read directions. Follow directions. It's that simple.

So to my faithful followers (Hi Rob!) I say this - for the love of all things pure and holy, research how to write a professional query letter before filling an e-mail full of fluff, drool and nonsense. Save Ms. Reid and those like her from hours of wasted time reading anything except for what your story is about. Read her blog, it's one of the best.

November 23, 2010

Query Therapy - Couch #2 Available

Searching for query information giving you a headache? Literally? Well, join the club. Have you ever read for hours on a Kindle and not gotten a headache, but then spend twenty-three minutes on a computer and feel like a porcupine is doing the Mambo behind your eyes? I don't have a Kinde, but from what others tell me there is no eye strain at all. Why is that? And why can't computer monitors be as gentle?

Today's query therapy couch is occupied by The Knight Agency and their fine post on Writing a Solid Query Letter. I like this page, it gives distinct instructions on how to present your manuscript without having to hold your hand to do it. They even offer links to more querying sites, and let's face it folks, there can't be too many query sites. The only thing missing, for me, is a sample query letter from one of their clients - that would be very helpful. Be sure to check out the rest of the website, it's loaded with great information!

November 21, 2010

Query Therapy - Couch #1 Available

I've come to the conclusion that writing a 120,000 word novel is easy. Yes, I said easy, but that is compared to surgery sans anesthetic (trust me here) or, say, writing a query letter. Over the past couple weeks I've been hitting the query thing pretty hard, reading good and bad samples, memorizing the do's and don't's, trying my hand at my own...and have discovered there's as much information out there on querying as there are hairs on a shedding cat.

That said, and to keep my head from exploding with information overload, I've decided to post the good sites I come across here, not only for my own therapy, but also for my followers, or follower (Hi Rob!) to assist in making their own query adventures a bit less mind boggling.

On Couch #1 is an excellent site by literary agent Jennifer Jackson. Jennifer is an agent with the Donald Maass Literary Agency and attended the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, OH (I was there too!) One simple sentence on her site literally grabbed me by the shirt and said "read on!" That sentence is: "She believes in a hands-on approach with a focus on career planning and editorial support." I don't know about you, but that is exactly what I want in an agent - someone who is hands-on, cares about my career and will ensure my manuscipt is in top form.

Visit Jennifer's site and check out her blog for her series of Query Wars posts. The numbers are a little intimidating - number of queries received vs. number of partials or ms requested, but that's the writing world, folks. She hands out fantastic query advice and comments with a gentle hand - I like that.


September 20, 2010

And so it starts!

Today, September 20, 2010, I become a blogger. May God help us all!